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COVID-19 Information for Washington

The purpose of this page is to provide apartment industry professionals with an overview of the issues affecting our industry with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. The page is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute, and should not be construed as, legal advice. This resource is not intended to provide a mandatory standard of care for the industry.

State and Local Affiliates

Please remember to use your state or local apartment association as the primary resource for the most up-to-date information on your responsibilities. Find your local affiliate.

We highly suggest you contact a local attorney before you decide to initiate an eviction action against a resident in the current environment as overlaying federal, state and county laws or restrictions on the judicial process may apply. This includes: issuing a notice to vacate, initiating any eviction-related action, or assessing fees or penalties on residents for nonpayment of rent or other lease violations. In addition to the below, you can access NAA's statutory information on late fees, eviction laws and other policy issues.

Reopening Order

Washington’s counties are dispersed amongst Phase 1, 2, and 3 of the state’s 4 phase reopening plan. Each phase has differing requirements and restrictions that can be found here

Face Mask Mandate

Governor Inslee required the use of face coverings in public indoor and outdoor spaces. 

State of Emergency 

Governor Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency on February 29, 2020.

Eviction

Status: Eviction Cases and Enforcement Suspended

Executive Order 20-19.1

  • Action: Gov. Jay Inslee announced, on March 18, 2020, a 30-day statewide moratorium on evictions for residential tenants. On April 16, 2020, Gov. Inslee extended the state's eviction moratorium through August 1, 2020. The Governor extended the order again on July 24, 2020 through October 15, 2020. 
  • Restrictions: The order prohibits the following:
    • Serving, enforcing, or threatening to serve or enforce any notice to vacate, including “eviction notices, notices to pay or vacate, notices of unlawful detainer, notice of termination of tenancy, or notice to comply or vacate.” Also applies to tenancies that have expired or will expire during the state of emergency.
      • This prohibition applies unless the housing provider attaches an affidavit attesting that the action is necessary to respond to a significant and immediate risk to the health or safety of others created by a resident.  
    • Seeking or enforcing, or threatening to seek or enforce judicial eviction orders or agreements to vacate unless the housing provider attaches an affidavit attesting that the action is necessary to respond to a significant and immediate risk to the health or safety of others created by a resident.  
    • Suing for unpaid rent or other charges where such nonpayment was the result of COVID-19. This only applies if a resident accepts and complies with a payment plan that is reasonable based on the individual financial, health, and other circumstances of that resident.

Rental Assistance/Housing Provider Assistance

The Washington State Department of Commerce is distributing approximately $100 million in state Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding through its existing network of homeless services grantees and organizations serving homeless youth to operate a new rent assistance program launched August 1, 2020. The program will focus on preventing evictions by paying up to three months of past due, current and future rent to housing providers for eligible participants.

This rent assistance program will address some of the need resulting from the coronavirus pandemic and hopes to reduce some of the stress both renters and landlords are facing now and in the future. Rent assistance is limited to three months and the program ends December 31, 2020.

Commerce provided guidance and formula-based grant amounts to its Consolidated Homeless Grant program lead grantees and organizations serving the Office of Homeless Youth in every county of the state. These organizations will use grant funds to provide up to three months of rent assistance that will be paid to landlords on an eligible client’s behalf. Complete program information is on the Commerce web page.

Rent Freeze

Executive Order 20-19.1

On April 16, 2020, Governor Inslee expanded the states eviction moratorium to prohibit housing providers from increasing rents or deposits. It also forbids treating unpaid rent as an enforceable debt, unless the landlord demonstrates by a preponderance of the evidence to a court that the resident was offered, and refused or failed to comply with, a reasonable repayment plan based on the individual financial, health, and other circumstances of that resident.

Price-Gouging Law

Washington does not have statutory language regulating price gouging during declarations of emergency.

Local Legal and Regulatory Information

Auburn

Eviction 

An Emergency Order went into effect on March 18, 2020 and is set to expire in 30 days.

  • Action: The order prohibits accrual of late fees.
  • Additional Commentary: Unclear whether this has been extended.

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Bremerton

Rental Assistance/Housing Provider Assistance

The City of Bremerton and the Bremerton Housing Authority have established the COVID-19 Rental Assistance Program.

Applicants who can demonstrate a loss of income due to COVID-19 and make between 30% and 80% of the area median income may receive up to 70% of their rent for up to three months.

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Burien 

Eviction 

An Emergency Order implementing an eviction moratorium went into effect on March 16, 2020 and is set to expire in 30 days.

  • Action: The order prohibits evictions based on nonpayment of rent and accrual of late fees. 
  • Additional Commentary: It is unclear whether this has been extended.

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Everett

Eviction 

An Emergency Order went into effect on March 17, 2020 and is set to expire in 30 days.

  • Action: The order prohibits housing providers from serving a 14-day notice; prohibits charging late fees or other charges due to nonpayment of rent; creates a defense to any pending eviction that the eviction is occurring during the moratorium; and an extension determined by the Mayor based on public health necessity.
  • Additional Commentary: It is unclear whether this has been extended.

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Kenmore

Eviction

An Emergency Order (pgs. 47-54), implementing an eviction moratorium, went into effect on March 16, 2020 and is set to expire on April 24, 2020.

  • Action: The order covers all evictions of residential dwelling units. Additionally, the order states that housing providers shall not issue a notice of termination or initiate an eviction action or otherwise evict a tenant.
  • Exceptions: The order contains an exception. It does not apply to evictions relating to the protection of life and safety, including, but not limited to, circumstances where a tenant threatens another tenant or other person(s) with a firearm or other deadly weapon, or some other unlawful use of a firearm or other deadly weapon on the rental premises, or for physically assaulting or placing another person in immediate physical danger on the rental premises.
  • Late Fees: The order also prohibits late fees or other charges due to late payment to accrue.
  • Additional Commentary: The City Manager shall have authority, in his discretion, to extend the temporary moratorium for additional time periods based on public health necessity. It is unclear whether this order has been extended.

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King County

Rental Assistance/Housing Provider Assistance

United Way of King County, the City of Seattle, and King County announced a partnership to expand the United Way’s Home Base program to help provide rental assistance to King County households.

An initial investment of $5 million in public and private funds will go to qualifying residents who lost all or part of their income due to the pandemic. The funds, which will go into the United Way’s Community Relief Fund, are estimated to help around 2,000 families stay in their homes.

The money is intended to help provide April rent that has not yet been paid. King County residents can apply if they are behind on rent, are economically impacted by COVID-19, and have a monthly household income below 50% of the area median income.

Residents in need of rental assistance can complete an online application or call 211. Translation services will also be available by calling 211.

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San Juan County

Rental Assistance/Housing Provider Assistance

In response to the COVID-19 closures, Orcas Island Community Foundation has created an emergency fund to help people while they are out of work. OPAL is partnering with OICF and San Juan County to distribute emergency housing assistance to help people cover their rent or mortgage during the shutdown.

Funding to pay rents or mortgages has been provided by individual donors and grants from San Juan County.  Our goal is to help as many islanders as possible, which means any one individual may not receive the full amount of their request, but most people will receive some help. As long as funding is available, OPAL will distribute funds based on the following criteria:

  • You are out of work or have lost income because of COVID closures or COVID related restrictions.
  • Your rent is unaffordable given your new, lower income and/or your current income is 60% of Area Median Income* or less.
  • You need to make the current or last month’s payment.

There is a cap of $1,350 per month for rents and $1,500 for mortgages. We are currently reviewing one month of assistance at a time. This may change for people who will not receive unemployment.

We recognize that unemployment payments are being impacted by fraud and are taking that into account.

Applications are processed in the order received and prioritized as follows:

  • You are late on your payment
  • You need to pay the current month
  • You need to pay next month

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Seattle

Eviction 

Mayor Jenny Durkan has signed an emergency order temporarily halting residential evictions for non-payment of rent effective March 17, 2020. This order was extended on July 31, 2020 through December 31, 2020

  • Action:  The decision to extend it will be evaluated and determined by the Mayor based on public health necessity. 
  • Scope: No housing provider may issue notices of termination or initiate eviction action for nonpayment of rent or act on a termination notice for non-payment of rent during this moratorium. The order applies to initiating an unlawful detainer proceeding, issuing a notice, or otherwise acting on any termination notice.
  • Late Fees: The order also prevents late fees or other charges due to late payment of rent.
  • Exceptions – Actions by the tenant constituting an imminent threat to the health and safety of neighbors, the landlord, or the tenant’s or landlord’s household members.
  • Additional Commentary: The order also creates defense to eviction, if the eviction will occur during the moratorium, unless actions by the tenant constitute an imminent threat to the health and safety of neighbors, the landlord, or the tenant’s or landlord’s household members.

Ordinance No. 126075

  • Action: Extends the eviction moratorium established by Mayor Durkin to six months after the end of the State of Civil Emergency declaration in all nonpayment of rent cases, and all eviction for a renter’s habitual late payment. If a renter cannot pay rent during or within six months after the end of the Mayor’s moratorium on evictions, that inability to pay can be raised as a defense to eviction in court.
  • Additional Commentary: Requires additional language be included in the 14-day Notice to Pay or Vacate. Also prohibits an award of attorney fees related to an eviction for nonpayment of rent and habitual late payment of rent during and six months after the end of the State of Civil Emergency.

Ordinance No. 126081

  • Action: Requires a housing provider to offer an installment payment schedule for past due rent owing during and within the six months following the end of the State of Civil Emergency declared by the Mayor of Seattle, according to the following schedule:
    • One-month or less of overdue rent must be paid in 3 consecutive, equal monthly installments, 
    • Over one-month and up to two-months in overdue rent must be paid in 5 consecutive, equal monthly installments, and
    • Two-months or more in overdue rent must be paid in 6 consecutive, equal monthly installments.
  • Late Fees and Other Charges: No late fees, interest, or other charges may accrue due to any late payment of rent during and within the one year after termination of the State of Civil Emergency declared by the Mayor of Seattle.
  • Additional Commentary: Requires additional language to be included in the 14-Day Notice to Pay or Vacate – “City law entitles you to pay overdue rent in installments. If your landlord does not accept payment according to the installment schedule, you may raise this as a defense to eviction in court.” Moreover, a housing provider’s failure to accept an installment payment plan or include language in the 14-day Notice to Pay or Vacate prevents an award of attorney fees and costs in an eviction.  

Rental Housing Association vs. City of Seattle

  • Action: On September 18, 2020, the Rental Housing Association of Washington filed suit in King County Superior Court to challenge the City of Seattle’s two eviction-ban ordinances and its ordinance requiring that tenants be offered an installment plan and up to a year to repay back-rent. The suit argues these ordinances are in conflict with state law. The ordinances are as follows:
  • Additional Commentary: The lawsuit argues that the city’s eviction bans attempt to rewrite state law and remove protections for housing providers. For example, the city’s eviction ban allows for nonpayment of rent to be used as an affirmative defense against eviction, but state law lists nonpayment of rent as a just cause for eviction. The suit also argues that the requirement to offer payment plans conflicts with the rules under state law for repayment of rent and charging interest.

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Spokane

Rental Assistance/Housing Provider Assistance

The Spokane Valley City Council will use its CARES funding to provide roughly $734,000 in rental and mortgage assistance and $260,000 on utility assistance.

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Tacoma

Rental Assistance/Housing Provider Assistance

The City of Tacoma is working to help people impacted by COVID-19 pay their rent. People who live within the City of Tacoma, who make 50% or less of the median household income in Pierce County, and who have been economically impacted by COVID-19 can apply for the funding.

People are eligible to received upward of $1000 which will go toward paying rent. The money will go directly to landlords. The deadline to apply is May 6, 2020.

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